SOUTH JORDAN — Just over two years ago, Teresa Wang and her three children — Jill, 23; Christian, 20; and Cole, 20 — simultaneously embarked on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now, after returning from their respective missions, the Wangs are grateful for those who made it possible for them to serve at the same time and for the lessons they learned.
"Just knowing that we all gained that knowledge and were able to come home having served honorable missions is a great strength because, for me, I know that what we did is the right thing, even though it seemed impossible at first," Christian Wang said.
As her children approached the age at which they could serve, Teresa Wang was ecstatic. But then, reflecting on her LDS mission to Japan in her youth, she began to consider serving another mission, and she couldn't shake the idea.
Members of their stake helped the Wangs cover the financial costs. The family was also supported by Teresa Wang's parents, whom she and her children had lived with since her divorce when Christian and Cole were 3 months old. Teresa Wang's parents were the missionaries' emergency contacts and home base while they served.
The family's dream of serving together became a reality in April 2013 when Teresa Wang, Jill Wang, and twins Christian and Cole Wang received their mission calls. In August 2013, Teresa Wang left for the Polynesian Culture Center in Honolulu for 18 months; Jill Wang left for the Mormon Battalion Historic Center in the California San Diego California Mission, Mandarin speaking, for 18 months; Christian Wang departed for his two-year mission to the Canada Vancouver Mission, English speaking; and Cole Wang served in the Mexico City Southeast Mission, Spanish speaking, for two years.
Serving simultaneously helped the family members cope as they experienced emotional highs and lows.
"It’s kind of inevitable that some missionaries get homesick, so when those moments came for me, it was kind of on a reduced level because I knew they were all out there doing the same thing," Cole Wang said. "I didn’t have as much of an incentive to be homesick because they weren’t at home either."
The Wangs communicated through weekly emails and found comfort in each other's mission experiences.
"The fact that all of us were serving kind of provided a different insight to the work ... because we would ask each other about things that they were going through in their own missions, what works for them," Christian Wang said. "It was helpful because we could use those ideas when we needed them."
Although Teresa Wang helped her children prepare for their missions before they left, she provided a different kind of support as she served a mission herself.
"It was very helpful to have my mom because she really did help me a lot during the hard times of my mission," Jill Wang said. "I think her being in another (visitors) center, like me, helped make our experiences very relatable, so she was a huge help."
Before she and her children departed, Teresa Wang focused on the joy her family would experience over the next two years. But as they all served, she found that the challenges helped her grown closer to her children.
"For me, I was so excited to serve a mission with them, and in my mind, I just had this naive little thought that 'Oh, they’ll just be having fun,'" Teresa Wang said. "Missions, they really stretch you, emotionally, spiritually, in every aspect. It really makes you rely on Heavenly Father. I think it really strengthened our relationship because I was able to help them on a deeper level."
In addition to their weekly email communication, the Wang family members were also able to video chat with each other on Mother's Day and Christmas. They scheduled their chats around each other's time zones so they could all talk at once and include their grandparents back home in Utah.
"I think the fact that we could all just make it work at the same time was incredible," Jill Wang said. "That was a real blessing to be able to make it work, especially with the different time zones."
Now that all four missionaries have returned, they continue to support each other as they adjust to everyday life and maintain the habits they developed on their missions.
"It’s very common, very frequent now that you hear somebody in a conversation talking about one of those four people’s missions," Cole Wang said. "But the biggest blessing isn’t of being a stronger family afterward; I mean, yes, I consider that a blessing, but the biggest blessing is being able to go out as a family in the first place."
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